Pessimism and Optimism

Use this philosophy forum to discuss and debate general philosophy topics that don't fit into one of the other categories.

This forum is NOT for factual, informational or scientific questions about philosophy (e.g. "What year was Socrates born?"); such homework-help-style questions can be asked and answered on PhiloPedia: The Philosophy Wiki. If your question is not already answered on the appropriate PhiloPedia page, then see How to Request Content on PhiloPedia to see how to ask your informational question using the wiki.

Pessimism and Optimism

Post Number:#1  Postby Burning ghost » October 9th, 2017, 2:43 am

Here is a quote from"The Birth of Tragedy", by Nietzsche, to get us started:

Is pessimism inevitably the sign of decline, decadence, waywardness, of wearied, enfeebled instincts? - As once it was with the Hindus, as it seems to be with us 'modern' Europeans? Is there a pessimism of strength? An intellectual predilection for what is hard, terrible, evil, problematic in existence, arising from well-being, overflowing health, the abundance of existence? Is it perhaps possible to suffer from over abundance? A tempting and challenging, sharp-eyed courage that craves the terrible as one craves the enemy, the worthy enemy, against whom it can test its strength? Wishing to learn from it the meaning of 'fear'?


What can we take away from this? Is optimism and pessimism simply about understanding how to direct ourselves toward the inevitable difficulties of existence?

I think we can all agree that both pessimism and optimism can be bad for us. What do we do about recognizing when either turns bad? What goals can we set before us to gauge our attitudes?

I recently had a curious thought about our innate individual optimism and how it functions in our personal development and the develop of society. Meaning, what factors are in place to counter our innate optimism within social structures?

Just in case you don't believe in our natural tendencies toward a more personal optimistic outlook you can test this on anyone you know quite easily. You ask someone how likely it is they think they'll get cancer in their lifetime. Whatever percentage they come up with compared to some pretend 'truth' you tell them will show their innate optimism. If your information is negative they may shift a little to accommodate the new information, let us say they think 50% chance, and you tell them it's actually a 80% chance. They may shift to around 60% chance. Whilst if you told them the chance was only 30% they'd instantly adjust their belief to this new data and be happy to say 30% of getting cancer. This has been tested on a neurological level and we now know this 'optimism' is innate.

This makes sense in terms of humans being explorative creatures and willing to step out of their comfort zones. What I see as a counter to this is our proclivity to follow the group, the social dynamic seems to counter us overstretching, to stop us all being 'manic' creatures thrilled by the idea of exploration.

To sum this though up in a very vague way, I guess I am suggesting something like "The individual is optimistic, and social structures are pessimistic." Meaning group mentality is more inclined to view any new idea as being negative whilst the individual is more likely to view any new idea with optimism. This is because the collective views of new information have a weaker impact, being open to more instances of counter arguments because of varying degrees of what is considered 'good'/'positive'. All individuals will be inclined to the 'optimistic' outlook, so if they deem the information to go against them they'll be repulsed by it, whilst those who see the benefit will adhere to it.

Given this simple dynamic it seems likely that we have to be innately optimistic to balance our various personal perspectives and progress ideas.

What are your thoughts on my ideas here and/or Nietzsche's quote above?

Thanks
AKA badgerjelly
Burning ghost
 
Posts: 1493 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: February 27th, 2016, 3:10 am

Pessimism and Optimism



Become a member for less ads

Already a member? Login
 

Re: Pessimism and Optimism

Post Number:#2  Postby Spectrum » October 10th, 2017, 1:36 am

As with the inevitable existence of Yin and Yang, all humans has the potential for optimism and pessimism and both must work in complementarily with each other.

The O&P state of the individual is driven by context and circumstances. A person may be optimistic of going to heaven but pessimistic about peace on Earth. At any one time a person may be optimistic about 100 thing in his life and pessimistic with another 100 things in his life. Schopenhauer stated if the Christians are so optimistic of going to heaven, then I am pessimistic on the contrary.

I believe optimism and pessimism [O&P ] is closely related to love/joy and sadness.

Both optimism and pessimism [O&P] are supported by their respective neural circuits, chemical and whatever the relevant and necessary processes. The O&P state of the individual is trigger by the following;

    1. The general activeness of the optimistic or pessimistic circuits. Thus if a person has a more active optimistic generally, he is likely to be optimistic in most things in life except the particular things that s/he is pessimistic.

    2. With knowledge, an individual is specifically pessimistic about a particular thing. Although a person may be overall optimistic but s/he [having the necessary knowledge] is realistically pessimistic the doctor will not be able to cure the mother's Alzheimer's.

O&P has its respective pros and cons in the various contexts but it is wiser to cultivate a greater sense of rational optimism than allowing a cloud of blind pessimism to dominate one's life.

Note Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life; by Martin E.P. Seligman.

It is wiser to avoid Learned Helplessness.
Not-a-theist. Religion is a critical necessity for humanity now, but not the FUTURE.
Spectrum
 
Posts: 4261 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: December 21st, 2010, 1:25 am
Favorite Philosopher: Eclectic -Various

Re: Pessimism and Optimism

Post Number:#3  Postby Burning ghost » October 10th, 2017, 2:17 am

Spectrum -

Humans are wired to be optimistic (it is the "active" component.) That is not really something up for dispute. I was really looking at the impact of this on social groups, and how the differences in perspective naturally inhibit what could otherwise be a genetic flaw?

I am curious what you make of the dynamic I offered between the individual level and the social interaction.
AKA badgerjelly
Burning ghost
 
Posts: 1493 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: February 27th, 2016, 3:10 am

Re: Pessimism and Optimism

Post Number:#4  Postby Spectrum » October 10th, 2017, 3:28 am

Burning ghost wrote:Spectrum -
Humans are wired to be optimistic (it is the "active" component.) That is not really something up for dispute. I was really looking at the impact of this on social groups, and how the differences in perspective naturally inhibit what could otherwise be a genetic flaw?

I am curious what you make of the dynamic I offered between the individual level and the social interaction.

It is difficult to state ALL humans are wired to be optimistic. I prefer to discuss optimism and pessimism in its specific context, but it would be wiser to be more rationally optimistic than being blindly pessimistic.

As for groups [large and humanity in general], we can refer to the principles of the Bell Curve where it is likely a small percentile [say 5%] are very highly optimistic while a 5% on the other end are very pessimistic and the rest in between are within a continuum in various degrees depending on the standard deviations and mean.

As observed there is generally a small percentile of humans who are highly optimistic to the extent of blind optimism with hope they will achieve what is expected and the associated pleasure from their achievements.
For example there is a percentile of risk takers [some blind and some rational] who has no qualms risking their lives to explore new lands and seas for its sake with potential for new resources and land for an expansion population. In this sense we can say the majority of pessimistic to various degrees [low to high] and enjoy the benefits of new discoveries.

From an evolutionary psychological perspectives, the small % of highly optimistic risk takers can risk their lives while the majority are 'programmed' to be risk-adverse and focus on reproduction, etc. to support the preservation of the species.
While those who stay behind are pessimistic in exploration, the spouse of the explorers or hunters are optimistic the risk takers will return with food and resources for the family or group.

So there is some evolutionary rationality within group where a small percentile [Bell Curve] are by nature highly optimistic while the rest remain pessimistic [low to high].
Not-a-theist. Religion is a critical necessity for humanity now, but not the FUTURE.
Spectrum
 
Posts: 4261 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: December 21st, 2010, 1:25 am
Favorite Philosopher: Eclectic -Various

Re: Pessimism and Optimism

Post Number:#5  Postby NeilWallace » October 12th, 2017, 6:33 pm

Nietzsche seems to be suggesting there are positive benefits from pessimism. The happy being for Nietzsche who has discovered the secret of happiness has reached a dead end, regardless of the fact that he is optimistic and apparently growing by searching out and exploring whatever the latest challenge is. The deliberate seeking of pessimistic situations is a form of liberation, growth and change through destruction of the current self. Nietzsche seems to be saying that often we have most to learn from fear, failure, pessimism and the supposedly negative states which are often the most trans formative. Hence we instinctively seek these out as a drive to pessimism. Willing our own destruction so that something better can arise from the ashes. Build your houses on Vesuvius etc.
User avatar
NeilWallace
New Trial Member
 
Posts: 2 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: October 11th, 2017, 3:15 pm

Re: Pessimism and Optimism

Post Number:#6  Postby Albert Tatlock » October 16th, 2017, 5:12 am

Burning ghost wrote:Here is a quote from"The Birth of Tragedy", by Nietzsche, to get us started:
Just in case you don't believe in our natural tendencies toward a more personal optimistic outlook you can test this on anyone you know quite easily. You ask someone how likely it is they think they'll get cancer in their lifetime. Whatever percentage they come up with compared to some pretend 'truth' you tell them will show their innate optimism. If your information is negative they may shift a little to accommodate the new information, let us say they think 50% chance, and you tell them it's actually a 80% chance. They may shift to around 60% chance. Whilst if you told them the chance was only 30% they'd instantly adjust their belief to this new data and be happy to say 30% of getting cancer. This has been tested on a neurological level and we now know this 'optimism' is innate.
Thanks

The end result may well be an increase in optimism but the process bringing about the adjustment of the estimate of likelihood in a favourable direction is purely based on maths and the availability of new information. How come -when the estimate was 50% and the "actual" was 80%, causing the estimate to go in a negative direction- you didn't say, "this has been tested on a neurological level and we now know this 'pessimism' is innate"?
User avatar
Albert Tatlock
 
Posts: 51 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: October 15th, 2017, 3:23 pm

Re: Pessimism and Optimism

Post Number:#7  Postby Burning ghost » October 16th, 2017, 9:17 pm

Albert Tatlock wrote:
Burning ghost wrote:Here is a quote from"The Birth of Tragedy", by Nietzsche, to get us started:
Just in case you don't believe in our natural tendencies toward a more personal optimistic outlook you can test this on anyone you know quite easily. You ask someone how likely it is they think they'll get cancer in their lifetime. Whatever percentage they come up with compared to some pretend 'truth' you tell them will show their innate optimism. If your information is negative they may shift a little to accommodate the new information, let us say they think 50% chance, and you tell them it's actually a 80% chance. They may shift to around 60% chance. Whilst if you told them the chance was only 30% they'd instantly adjust their belief to this new data and be happy to say 30% of getting cancer. This has been tested on a neurological level and we now know this 'optimism' is innate.
Thanks

The end result may well be an increase in optimism but the process bringing about the adjustment of the estimate of likelihood in a favourable direction is purely based on maths and the availability of new information. How come -when the estimate was 50% and the "actual" was 80%, causing the estimate to go in a negative direction- you didn't say, "this has been tested on a neurological level and we now know this 'pessimism' is innate"?


Because the bias is heavily tilted toward optimism. There are neural networks in place that make us believe in the better outcome. We don't question new data if it favours our views, yet if the data goes against our views then we're never ready to accept it (even when presented with the evidence.)

What was really intriguing me was how this plays out in large social interactions.
AKA badgerjelly
Burning ghost
 
Posts: 1493 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: February 27th, 2016, 3:10 am

Re: Pessimism and Optimism

Post Number:#8  Postby Albert Tatlock » October 17th, 2017, 2:46 am

Burning ghost wrote:
What was really intriguing me was how this plays out in large social interactions.

The vote for Brexit is probably an example of optimistic bias.
User avatar
Albert Tatlock
 
Posts: 51 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: October 15th, 2017, 3:23 pm

Re: Pessimism and Optimism

Post Number:#9  Postby Maffei » Yesterday, 10:05 am

The pessimist by weakness does not want to come into contact with the reality in which he has a poor perspective. The pessimist by force, on the contrary, wants to look at it, however hard it may be. This type of pessimist can deal with the difficulty, often more easily than the artificial optimist, who wants to skip the problem. Isn't the pessimist by force more optimistic than the optimist by weakness?

I think this is provocation that Nietzsche is trying to put. Optimism and pessimism are just different representational forms of addressing a problem that do not necessarily express one's feeling. At first, they are more concerned with how one reacts to situations than how one lives situations.

But that is not all. I see that Nietzsche is putting the possibility of optimism, when passive, to be the symptom of a bitter and resentful life. It is like hope , in the sense that Spinoza attributes to the term: a sad affection because happiness is adressed to the future. Future is better than the present. The subject is optimistic about the future because he recognizes in his heart that his current life is bad and disgusting.

At this point I would also disagree with the premise that optimism is natural and genetic and would say that the study that Burning Ghost has shown can be related only to how the subject wants to represent himself and others - usually, he wants to have an optimistic image of himself, but this would not necessarily have to do with inner joy.

I would also relate this optimistic response to the possibility of cancer to the superstitious conditioning that many of us have, thinking that just by having positive thinking, this will leave our body less prone to cancer. The guy is afraid to speak that he is afraid because he imagines that this thought can cause cancer.
User avatar
Maffei
New Trial Member
 
Posts: 16 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: September 7th, 2017, 7:34 pm

Re: Pessimism and Optimism

Post Number:#10  Postby Burning ghost » Yesterday, 8:39 pm

Maffei -

scientificamerican.com/article/neurosci ... ight-side/

How can prediction errors help us to understand optimism? Tali Sharot, Ray Dolan and I conducted a study at University College London to investigate how people maintain their optimistic predictions. Participants estimated their likelihood of experiencing 80 negative events including various diseases and criminal acts. They then saw the statistical likelihoods of these events happening to an average person of their age. We then measured how much participants updated their predictions by having them re-estimate their personal likelihoods of experiencing these 80 adverse life events. When given good news -- i.e., a bad outcome is not as likely as you thought -- people responded strongly. But given bad news, they tended to change their prediction only a little bit. Importantly, distinct brain regions seemed to be related to prediction errors for good and bad news about the future. Interestingly, the more optimistic a participant was the less efficiently one of these regions coded for undesirable information. Thus, the bias in how errors are processed in the brain can account for the tendency to maintain rose-colored views.


And here is another study relating to trait optimism:

academic.oup.com/scan/article/11/2/263/ ... diates-the
AKA badgerjelly
Burning ghost
 
Posts: 1493 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: February 27th, 2016, 3:10 am


Return to General Philosophy

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests

Philosophy Trophies

Most Active Members
by posts made in lasts 30 days

Avatar Member Name Recent Posts
Greta 162
Fooloso4 116
Renee 107
Ormond 97
Felix 90

Last updated January 6, 2017, 6:28 pm EST

Most Active Book of the Month Participants
by book of the month posts

Avatar Member Name BOTM Posts
Scott 147
Spectrum 23
Belinda 23
whitetrshsoldier 20
Josefina1110 19
Last updated January 6, 2017, 6:28 pm EST